Rape and Violence: U.S. Survey Finds Much Higher Rates Than Thought

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Every minute, 24 Americans suffer sexual or intimate-partner violence, according to an eye-opening new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That adds up to 12 million men and women victimized each year in the United States.

The data come from a new public health surveillance tool launched in 2010 called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), which conducted random telephone surveys with 9,000 women and 7,400 men. The NISVS will be an ongoing, annual project aimed at better understanding the frequency of intimate partner violence. It is the first survey to provide national and state-level data on the problem. The results were sobering:


Nearly 1 in 5 women — or 1.3 million women — reported rape or attempted rape. For 80% of women, attacks first happened before age 25; and for 42%, before age 18. Most women knew their assailants: 51% were raped by a partner, and 48% were raped by an acquaintance. About 35% of women who had been raped as minors were again raped as adults, the survey found.

There were far fewer male rape victims, but among them, 28% said they were first raped before the age of 11. While 52% of men were raped by an acquaintance, just over 15% were attacked by a stranger. Overall, most men and women who reported being raped were victimized by one person.

Partner Violence

A full third of American women and a quarter of men have experienced rape, sexual or physical violence, or stalking by a significant other — a girlfriend, boyfriend, partner or spouse. As many as 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7, men have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of a partner, including being choked, punched, beaten, stabbed or shot. Many more have suffered lesser physical violence, including slapping and pushing.


One in 6 women reported being stalked by an intimate partner, receiving unwanted phone calls, text messages and other forms of online and offline contact that caused her to fearing for her life and well-being.

Health Effects

Both men and women who had suffered such violence were more likely to report poor physical and mental health; they also reported frequent headaches, chronic pain and problems sleeping. Women in particular were more likely to suffer irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and diabetes if they had been attacked or threatened, compared with women who had not.

“This report highlights the heavy toll that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence places on adults in this country. These forms of violence take the largest toll on women, who are more likely to report immediate impacts and long-term health problems caused by their victimization,” said Dr. Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in a statement. “Much victimization begins early in life, but the consequences can last a lifetime.”

The full report is available here.

Meredith Melnick is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeredithCM. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.